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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 18:31 GMT
Keane's happy retirement
Republic boss Kerr wanted Keane back in the fold
Republic boss Brian Kerr wanted Roy Keane back

Roy Keane has announced his retirement from international football in order to prolong his career with Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson is a firm advocate of the old football maxim: "You're a long time retired".

It means enjoying every last game at every level before heading for the manager's office or happy retirement.

And it is a creed that led Ferguson to ditch his own plans to quit as Manchester United manager.

But his commitment is not quite as fierce when it comes to his own players.

Ferguson is perfectly happy to usher them into early retirement when it comes to international football.

It is all done in the best interests of both the players and Manchester United.

And, of course, Sir Alex Ferguson.

He is particularly vehement on the case of his kindred footballing spirit Roy Keane, who had been the object of heavy courtship from new Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr.

You only have to look at how Alan Shearer has benefited from not playing for England to see that it can help players of Roy's age

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Keane became a nation's cause when he quit the Republic's World Cup campaign after a row with then boss Mick McCarthy.

And Kerr had hoped, in the end unsuccessfully, to tempt him back.

Kerr's initial interest had sparked Ferguson into action and the United boss warned Keane against the dangers of over-exerting his dodgy hip in the cause of his country.

"I'll sit down with Roy and let him know what I think," Ferguson had said. "You only have to look at how Alan Shearer has benefited from not playing for England to see that it can help players of Roy's age.

"Shearer discovered that you can't please three parts of the football equation.

"Maybe Roy would be better just settling for two - Manchester United and himself."

Ferguson wanted Keane to quit
Ferguson wanted Keane to quit

He conveniently excluded pleasing his manager.

Keane needed no excuse for making his own decision about international retirement, but Ferguson gave him one just in case.

And while Ferguson can be excused by some of blatant self-interest, he has a point when other evidence is examined.

He need only look at the successful extension of the careers of England veterans Tony Adams and Alan Shearer as key exhibits in his case.

Arsenal captain Adams and Newcastle's Shearer walked away from international football after England's ill-fated Euro 2000 campaign.

It allowed weary limbs to rest, leaving the pair refreshed and ready to rejuvenate their domestic careers.

Adams, albeit still troubled by injury, was an influence as Arsenal won the league and FA Cup Double last season.

Shearer's international exile has been even more significant, with the great striker rekindling memories of his halcyon days in the past two seasons on Tyneside.

Alan Shearer leaves the England stage
Alan Shearer leaves the England stage

Indeed, such has been his form that it is likely he would be included by Sven-Goran Eriksson if he made himself available again.

Shearer, however, has been wise enough to remember the reasons for his original decison and focused his efforts on Newcastle.

He was, in truth, just moving past his England peak and was in need of re-adjusting his career priorities.

Ferguson will no doubt be pleased Keane has ignored the siren call of his home country and confined his involvement to Old Trafford.

Keane has been instrumental in keeping Manchester United on Arsenal's tail in the title race - and no player is held in higher regard by Ferguson.

Ferguson wants him all to himself and Manchester United - and in reality few can blame him.


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